2 min read
It’s hard to imagine finding meaning in a complete vacuum. Somehow intuitively we know that if meaning is to be found on this Earth, it must have something to do with the way we relate to others.
Relationships can provide much-needed validation, empathy, and support as we struggle to make sense of our lives and the events that befall us.
At their best, relationships can provide much-needed validation, empathy, and support as we struggle to make sense of our lives and the events that befall us.
But relationships are not always supportive and nurturing. Personalities clash; misunderstandings occur; words get lost in translation; and communication breaks down. In the worst of circumstances, relationships can leave us feeling alienated and invalidated.
For instance, in a soon-to-be-published research article on the topic, my colleagues and I found that the extent to which people felt that their social support systems were validating or invalidating after a stressful life event (i.e., the loss of a loved one) had a tremendous influence on the way they ultimately responded.
In particular, social invalidation was associated with greater health problems and difficulties making sense of what happened. However, when one’s social support system was generally perceived as validating, people were much more likely to report that the experience, though difficult, also provided an opportunity for personal growth.
This week, we explore how communication with others can both diminish or enhance our sense of meaning and purpose in life and focus on ways of promoting the latter.
We first discuss the hidden meanings often buried within our everyday communication and consider ways of communicating with greater clarity.
In addition, you can take our quiz and find out more about your own style of communicating.
Finally, we outline a new way of thinking about interpersonal conflict that focuses on breaking out of old cycles and finding common ground.
So, come back everyday this week and explore with us how communication can both disrupt and enhance our ability to find meaning and purpose in life.
Bellet, B. W., Holland, J. M., & Neimeyer, R. A. (in press). The Social Meaning in Life Events Scale (SMILES): A preliminary psychometric evaluation in a bereaved sample. Death Studies.